Bathing has been banned indefinitely at Scottburgh after a mass capture of 14 large tiger sharks which were caught in the shark nets, apparently after feeding on the carcass of a dead whale.
KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board operations head Mike Anderson-Reade said the 14 sharks, ranging in size from 1.7m to 2.3m, were found trapped in the nets at first light yesterday.
Later, when some of the sharks were dissected in Umhlanga, they found large lumps of whale blubber in the stomachs. Nine of the captured sharks were still alive and were tagged before being released.
“It is very, very unusual to catch so many sharks, especially at this time of year before the sardines arrive,” said Anderson-Reade.
An extra boat unit had to be called in from Kingsburgh to help remove all the shark safety nets. He said the removal of nets in this type of “unusual situation” was standard practice to prevent the unnecessary capture of sharks.
“Tiger sharks are notorious scavengers. However, no captures have occurred at this installation since April 3, when two spinner sharks were caught.
“There appears to be some form of slick on the water surface in the inshore area of the bay…”, he said and added that it may been attracting the sharks.
Yesterday afternoon, Anderson-Reade said the source of the slick appeared to be blubber from a whale, most likely a dead minke whale or humpback whale.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and hopefully get an aircraft up to see if the whale carcass is visible from the air.”
The bathing ban would remain in force as a precautionary measure until evidence of the slick disappeared and the shark safety gear was replaced.